After taking stock of all the new boots slated for release in 2012 (read the 2012/2013 AT Ski Boot round up). I spent the better part of a month trying on boots and finally settled on the Scarpa Maestrale RS.
To set the stage, I am a expert skier with a racing background who likes to ski at speed and with aggression. Though not big in stature at 5’10 and 155lbs, I feel at home with more powerful equipment. I have skied a variety of boots over the past 10 years from stiff alpine race boots to more recently alpine focused touring boots. Living on the west coast, I ski variable terrain with heavier snow thus prefer wider skis with a minimum of 105mm underfoot. For the past few seasons I have used Black Diamond Methods with marginal results. I found them heavy and the walk mode made me feel like Frankenstein. While in ride mode, I persistently was blowing buckles off even with the boots cranked down so tight it would cut off circulation.
My decision making criteria for boots:
If it doesn’t fit my foot then no matter how the flex, walk mode or other features go it gets punted.
The boot needs to be progressive and stiff enough to drive a wide ski (105+) in challenging conditions.
I haul a heavy ski around and I find that it is easy to over power lightweight touring skis and boots in challenging conditions if I can save some weight in the boots it is a major bonus.
How is the stride does the boot feel like it gets hung up?
I always run a custom Intiution liner so I am less concerned with cheap liners than some maybe but it is important to consider the quality and comfort if you don’t have multiple liners
The Maestrale RS has a pretty average fit sporting a 101mm forefoot last. The heel is a little narrower so for people with heel lift problems it would be a good option. Scarpa eliminated the bulge in the mid foot which caused problems for individuals with flat feet (me included). One point to note is that I had to downsize one full size to get the proper fit. I have been a 27 in almost every boot since I was 16 but the shell fit told me otherwise. Make sure you get professionally fit if you are unsure.
This boot is stiff. The moment you lean forward on them you can tell that there is some great support. They are easily as stiff or stiffer than my Black Diamond Methods (now known as Factor 110). This was one of the major reasons why I never purchased the original Maestrale it lacked the stiffness I was looking for. After demo-ing them a few years ago I kept blowing off the buckets on the descent and only when I cranked the buckles to the point of pain and numbness did they perform ok.
The liner at first glance looks to be a beefed up Luxury liner from intuition. The foam appears to be significantly thicker than my current pro tour liner. The stock liners will remain backups until the protour liners are worn out. But from a stock liner perspective there is significant value in getting a stock Intuition liner which alone would cost well over $200. Notice on the side by side picture that the stock liner has a much flatter tongue attachment which should help with keeping pressure points to a minimum.
I did have to get a little creative with the liner molding to accommodate my feet. Though not having to do any shell modifications was a major bonus. An extra big toe cap to give some more wiggle room. Those individuals with high insteps will need to evaluate this boot carefully as even with my flat feet there was some initial pressure on the top of my foot (fixed of course by cranking down the buckle during the heat molding).
At 1550 grams with my intuition pro tour liners, the weight issue is pretty much moot. That is a light boot. 60 degrees of movement it feels like there isn’t any restriction in stride and walking feels like a dream. No more shin bang!
The buckles seem to be a little oversized and could have been downsized for a more streamlined look likely without a sacrifice to stiffness. Also the swing away tongue allows you to get the liner and foot in and out with great ease. The hardware has been replaced with rivets. The instep buckle looks to be a great tool to keep your heel pushed into the pocket but likely doesn’t add anything else to the performance of the boot.
With a purchase price of $690 + tax CDN. The boot isn’t cheap but it is far less than the Dynafit Mercury its direct competitor.The Maestrale Rs is positioned to continue Scarpa’s momentum as one of the best AT boot makers around.
After 3 months…
The RS’s walk mode is both easy to engage and offers a great range of motion. The free flowing feel eliminated the sensation of hitting a wall with my shins all day and has thus far left me with no shin bruises. Though the walk mode isn’t without its challenges. The rearward lean (with what seems like no rear hard stop) has caused me to get back seated a few times on some rolling/downward traverses.
I have had a few issues with the ski/walk mechanism icing up and preventing it from engaging into ski mode which forced me to ski with one boot in walk mode all day. This is something I am monitoring closely. This was a problem that a friend has experienced with this original Maestrale’s as well.
I was impressed with the overall feeling of the boot. It is both stiff but not harsh, a nice progressive flex pattern. The only other Scarpa boot I have skied was the Mobe which felt blocky and almost too stiff with no easing into turns. The Maestrale is easily as stiff as this boot but provides better sensitivity. The oversized power strap really allows you to tighten up the flex and drive a stiff ski.
Overall I have been very impressed with the ski mode. One thing I have noticed is that the first toe buckle does very little to add stiffness to the boot and I would likely not notice a difference in performance if it were removed. This buckle is more for volume control than increasing the skiability.
Aside from the previously mentioned ski/walk mode issue the plastic may prove to be another potential weakness. The lower boot is very thin and I have already put some pretty big scratches in the boot. With such a thin plastic is seems possible that with the right impact you could completely rip through the shell. This is something that I plan on watching in terms of durability. This is a really catch 22 because the thin plastic is integral to the boots light weight but long term I may be replacing boots sooner rather than later.
The buckles seem a little oversized and square. With so many lightweight minimalist features on the boot it seems that the buckles were almost an after thought. In addition to their size the buckle track seems to be very shallow and any build up of ice has caused the buckles to not seat properly and blow off when tightened.
What I liked
Though I have some refinement concerns with the boot, overall this boot has been one of the best all around boots I have skied in a long time. The combination of the great walk mode and stiffness for the descent I find myself more confident initiating turns knowing that there is support to really drive the ski. The fit seems to have changed from the original Maestrale and the expanded volume has created a boot that almost hugs my feet. That is something of a luxury as I haven’t had a boot that fit this well out of the box in a long time.
The stock intuition liner is a great bonus and adds to the value and versatility for fitting the boot. Not to mention how warm your feet stay with a high quality liner. Gone are my cold toes!
So who is this boot right for? I would say this is a great purchase for someone looking for a lightweight performance oriented boot. It gives up almost nothing on the down but provides great comfort on the up. My issues are mostly nit picking and I do not regret the purchase.
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